Community, high school honor veterans today
Fairfield High School hosted the annual Veterans Day program, honoring and recognizing former and current military members in song and speeches, with an added feature this year.
The school invited students and staff to share photos of family members who have served in uniform, and a slide show was made with family photos of “My Veteran,” accompanied by the names of and relationships to the Fairfield staff or students.
The faces of military members, some in dress uniform, some in battle uniform, those from World War II through the current wars, some posed, some action shots, were shown accompanied by Lee Greenwood’s recording of “God Bless the USA” played twice through.
“Remember you have veterans here, and many of you have veterans in your families,” said master of ceremonies Sgt. 1st Class (Retired) James Salts. “You can thank them for your being able to be here today and hear the inspirational music and patriotic words.”
Salts gave a brief background about Armistice Day and Veterans Day and told a story about the importance of the Pledge of Allegiance.
FHS senior Makayla Kessel, Girls State participant described her six days in June at the annual hands-on civics lesson as, “patriotic, frustrating, wonderful and humbling.”
Introduced as a member of the Honor Society, editor of the yearbook, cheerleader and band and selected for leadership abilities, Kessel said she ran for many offices at Girls State — and lost.
“I gave so many speeches I gained a nickname, ‘comeback Kessel,’” she said. “I ran for every office I could, and failed. I even had to run in a run-off and give yet another speech, and I lost that, too.
““I heard more than 100 speeches in one day. I realized each girl there was a leader in her school. I learned one of my qualities is to keep going, I have determination,” said Kessel.
She said the very first night at Girls State, when each participant is assigned one of seven cities, she met and worked with a girl, Gabriella.
“We worked closely together throughout the week and she was eventually elected governor, the top leadership position for the Hawkeye state,” she said. “She made important appointments and I didn’t even receive one of those. But I did get to help make those appointments because she asked me to be her press aide.”
Kessel said the press aide is the governor’s right-hand woman.
“She told me after the week was over, she picked me because she trusted me,” said Kessel. “I learned more about myself that week and met many young women from across Iowa who are ready to take on the world.”
Guest speaker Master Sgt. (Retired) Ed Glenn said it didn’t seem fair he had to follow Kessel’s inspirational speech, the slide show of “My Veteran” and the band and choir’s performances.
“Thanks to the veterans here and those serving today,” said Glenn. “I want to challenge all of us to continue to remember and help veterans.”
Glenn used the outline of high school classes to present “a seed, a challenge to students and community here today.”
First, he began with physical education and asked those able to stand, stretch and greet a neighbor in the auditorium.
“OK, now it’s English class,” he said.
He went on to give the definition of a veteran and Veterans Day.
“Watching the slide show about family members and the different military branches represented is powerful,” he said. “Veterans serve in time of war and peace.”
For history class, Glenn talked about the Unknown Soldiers memorials around the world and in the U.S. and the history of Veterans Day.
“If World War I had indeed been ‘the war to end all wars,’ Veterans Day might still be known as Armistice Day here,” he said.
Next, Glenn assigned the audience to go to a library and read about previous conflicts and the sacrifices of veterans and their families.
“Find those family albums and diaries and read them,” he said. “If you have photos, ask the veteran what was happening before or after the photo was taken.”
Glenn urged the audience to remember help and support are available through the Veterans Administration, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and other organizations,
“This comes under family and consumer science class,” he said. “Always know there is help out there. Seek help.”
Glenn also assigned homework.
“This is for the students and the community,” he said. “For an average grade, for C, seek out a veteran and thank them for their service.
“To earn a B grade, do the same, and when you go home, seek out a family member who has served, look them in the eye and shake their hand and thank them,” said Glenn.
“To earn an A, do all of the above and you’re required to find a veteran you don’t know — in a nursing home, in the neighborhood or right here after this program and introduce yourself and thank them.
“This homework is good for today, tomorrow, next week, next month and continuing.”
Glenn said he realized many veterans won’t talk about their experiences.
“It’s OK, you can still ask about how it was to be deployed, away from family and ask other questions,” he said.
Evelyn Normandine and daughter, Susan Pavelka, both of Fairfield, were seated in the front row of the auditorium this morning.
Normandine met her husband after World War II, but he had served in the U.S. Army in England.
“We attend this program as often as possible,” said Pavelka. “My [late] husband’s father was career military.
“My dad told stories about serving in England. My favorite one was about Glen Miller came to his office one day to requisition some equipment to put on his show entertaining the troops there,” said Pavelka.
“Glen Miller didn’t have any of the paperwork needed, and my father turned him down.
“Even though he didn’t serve in combat, being in England, he said he heard the bombs dropping every night. He volunteered to join the army, because he was already 35 or 36 when he joined and didn’t have to go. He served through the end of the war.”